Racing and Bourbon, what a weekend.

So back in 2011, Christmas 2011 to be exact, Claudine bought me a 12 lap NASCAR racing Experience for Christmas.  The Shootout experience with Rusty Wallace Racing to be exact.

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We attempted to get that scheduled in in 2012 and at the last opportunity to do so we ran down to KY speedway, and, of course it got rained out.

So here we are this year.  On Thursday/Friday, the weather was NOT promising.   It was supposed to rain.   We had a back up plan though.   We were taking a ‘Weekend Away’, and Claudine picked The Bourbon Trail, as the destination.   Should we get rained out, no big deal we’d just be halfway to where we were going anyway.

As for the racing experience.   I give Rusty Wallace group “Two Thumbs Up”.   The one hour class was a bit ‘long’ but I get that they have to cover safety stuff with folks.   Some folks who apparently have trouble knowing right from left.   That would be super important to have down when your radio spotter needs to tell you “Left and Lift”.

OK, so this is the description of the package

“Our “Shootout” experience is so much more than any entry level experience. We will get you suited in our beautiful custom Rusty Wallace Racing Experience driver’s suit made by Oakley. You go through a 45 minute orientation with one of our Professional Instructors and then you drive for 12 laps of racing. You will start behind the pace car just like the pros, after a couple of warm up laps its “Green, Green, Green” as you’re turned lose for an incredible run where passing is allowed and encouraged.”

The last time, the time that was rained out, one of the guys convinced us to do a ride-along, do that before you drive, it’s important and will make your driving experience better.   We signed up for it, but didn’t get to do that.   This time I did do the ride along, and I do believe it was well worth the added $69 (race day special add-on price).

So in the safety class, they explain to to what’s really happening is it’s a “Live Hot Track”, constant running.   More like a NASCAR practice session.   The track itself is divided up, they are giving us ‘Noobs’ the bottom 2/3rds of the track from the yellow line to approximately 2 and 1/2 car lanes up the track.   The outer traffic line is reserved for the Ride-along/Pro drivers.   We don’t get to go up there.   I’m sure there’s be lots of wadded up cars if the did.     Anyway this line is marked on the track with Orange Squares.  You can’t miss them.   You are told to stay in that middle 1 and a half lanes as you run.   If you come up on someone, the spotter will move them to the inside lane so you can pass.  That was mostly true.  You were warned that if your spotter told you “Left and Lift”, you were about to be passed and needed to yield that spot and hit the inside lane and let them by.  (Don’t get passed you should not get passed.  2nd place is first loser).

There are also 3 sets of cones for each corner.   KY Speedway is a “Tri-Oval”, but it really only has 2 ‘turns’ if you will.   Each turn had ‘Lift Cones, cones where you should probably lift the throttle for optimum driving, followed by a cone to indicate where you’d want to apply some brake to settle the car, get the nose down to get some bite, and a set of cones as you exit that were your ‘apply throttle’ cones.

As we walked from the class I thanked the instructor, he asked if I was doing a ride along, I said “Yes”.   He said “Great”, ask for Scott, he’s the best, he’ll show you all the cones, point things out to you that will be important if you are driving.   And, he said “Watch his feet”, and left it at that.

Now we know going in, or at least you should know going in, that you don’t really get a full-on NASCAR race car, no you don’t get to do 12 laps in that for $499, or what ever the price is, I think we paid $249 on groupon.

No what you get is maybe the former Shell of a NASCAR car.  But given the way it will be driven it’s gotta be dumbed down.  (mine didn’t have a Tach for instance), which (a) you don’t need for this , and (b) would probably actually cause more issues than it would help.   at 150-160 MPH you don’t want any noob looking at a Tach, they need to be looking down the track.

The Ride-along though, appear to have the real deal, or at least one that’s only slightly modified (passenger seat), and maybe other things to make it a tad more reliable.

I brought a helmet, I brought a helmet last time, because I thought I read that I could, well you can’t, unless your helmet already has HANS device hookups, which mine of course did not.

So, the ride along went great, 2 laps in my line, two laps in the high line inches from the wall on the back stretch and tri-oval. 

Then it was my turn, I got the #10 Monster Energy Drink car.  You get the car that’s mostly likely to fit you.  It was fine.

First, it’s loud, really loud (as expected).  Their helmets are mediocre, but that’s not unexpected given the use that they see.   They give you speakers to shove up in the helmet so that you can hear your spotter.  This is important because you can’t see anything behind you, there are no mirrors.  None.  The HANS device severely limits your ability to turn your head, you won’t be checking any blind spots so you need to be able to hear.   The speakers are loud too, they have to be, and there is no volume control.

You get in the car and they strap you in, and go over a few safety items.   You’ll suddenly hear your spotter who will guide you to get going.   “Switches Up, start your car.  OK, pull out to the right, stay on the right side of pit lane, as soon as you exit and you’re on the access road begin accelerating.    There is a checkered line at the entrance to the track, that is your spot to blend into that middle line.  I’ll tell you if it’s safe to do so. ”

As you start going down pit road they will tell you to get it into 4th (high gear) as soon as possible.  There is no shifting at KY speedway.  You just GO.   

I got out there into the line, first 2-3 laps are a pretty overwhelming.  Stuff is happening fast at 130MPH.  It’s loud, it’s awful bumpy to be honest.  You are looking for cones, watching for traffic, watching for the orange square you’re not allowed to get above.   Oh you’re supposed to watch for flags too.  Yeah, not at first, you are 100% hyper focused on the car, and the track, at least I was.    You are focused on trying to be smooth, smooth is fast, cones, lift, brake, on the gas.   Then it hit me, I watch the ‘Ride-along driver’, I did look over at his feet, he never lifted.   By lap 3 I was fully throttle, banging off the rev limiter in the straights.

Did I mention it’s noisy?  When I hit the rev limiter, it’s not like the rev limiter on my bike, you are immediately down on power.   I’m sure I was down on power in the car too but it wasn’t immediately noticeable.  I was just too hyper focused on staying in my line.  By lap (4) my spotters in my ear “Hey man, when you hear that, back off a little bit”, and it was on.

He was moving guys, for me.  By lap 5 he worked me passed someone and reminded me that I’m not allowed to pass unless he gives me the go ahead.   Of course out of the next corner there was another car, going way to slow, in my lane.   I slowed, I slowed some more, I waited what seemed like an eternity for this guy to move, and for my spotter to tell me what to do.  It never came.  Was this a test?   Ah, well he moved down about 1/2 a lane, and I passed him anyway.   I had lost count of laps at this point, and I honestly couldn’t remember if I had 8, 10 or 12, but I knew I was at least 6 into it, if they kicked me out or black flagged me, well, I’d had my fun.

The next time around on the back stretch the spotter came on, I need you to pit next time by, start slowing down.   We want to check your tires.     Then a few seconds later “You really should start slowing down, we’re under caution”.   I looked at the fence and indeed the caution lights were on.  How long had they been on?  How long before I noticed?  I figured I was about to get a talking too.   As I came down pit road he told me to pull up along side the 48 and shut it down while they check the track for debris.   He said if I wanted a water to signal for it and they’d bring me one.  

I pulled up, shut it down and waited.    A guy walked up and told me they were checking the track and they’d have me back out to finish in a few.   No talking too, no lecture.  This was good.    It was a nice morning mid 70 degrees but it was starting to get HOT in the car.   I just sat there, watch trucks run around the track and look for stuff.

Then the spotter came back on and said to start it up and go.  Same as last time, get into 4th as soon as you can, and go.

That small rest was priceless.   It really calmed things down and I felt 100% more confident after that. 

Within a lap I was full throttle, just off the rev limiter all the way around.  Passing folks like crazy.   I heard from my spotter twice, once to let me know I was getting a little ‘high’, and another to warn me that a ride along was coming.   I tried to keep up with them but there wasn’t any way.   I figure I was topped out at about 160, and they were tooling around at 175-180.   You can get away from someone pretty quickly with a 15MPH delta.   A few more laps later, he told me to come get my checker flag, that I’d done well, and they gave me an extra lap.

Was it worth it?  Hell yeah.  Smile     I want to do it again, only on a super speedway like Daytona or Michigan or Taledega.   I wanna go fast!

Those cars stick like glue, and it takes a little bit to build that confidence.   If I did KY again, I probably would  NOT opt for the additional insurance.  Well maybe I would, but I never felt like I was ever in a spot to wad it up.   I mean if I could run around wide open, no lifting, and not break it loose, the it’s not coming loose.   I’d like to drive a ride along car and feel the difference.

I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t how it was described.   There was no pace car, we didn’t get to line them up and go racing.   You were out there on a hot track with 10 other drivers, maybe 11.  But no you weren’t racing.   That’s probably OK given the vast difference in driving abilities, but no not a true shoot-out.

Again, well worth it.   We were there at 7:30 like we were supposed to be and out by 10:00am.   We didn’t stick around to to watch.   I’ll add photos later when I can get them off of Claudine’s Phone.

RWRE_AllSmiles

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